Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (4-9-12): Dealing with complex ESD/EMI challenges - Embedded.com

Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (4-9-12): Dealing with complex ESD/EMI challenges


Embedded Newsletter for 04-09-2012

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April 9, 2012

Tech Focus: Dealing with complex ESD/EMI challenges


A standards-based approach to capacitive-sensor EMC problems

How to use finite element methods to simulate system EMF/EMI effects

Tutorial: Improving the transient immunity of your microcontroller-based embedded design – Part 1

Editor's Note

Bernard Cole Bernard Cole
Site Editor

Embedded systems developers remind me of a cat in a field full of grasshoppers, faced as they are with innumerable transient electrical problems in their designs. Early on, before the numbers have gotten too large, the cat jumps from spot to spot, munching away happily on an unexpected source of protein. But as the day progresses and things heat up, there are so many insects that the cat is immobile with indecision. With an insect under each paw and another in its mouth, when it reaches for a nearby flying locust it loses one it already has.

Similarly, with complex system-on-chip designs of high density but increasing transient electrical sensitivities, embedded developers are faced with so many diverse transient system faults that I am surprised they are able to cope. But in “A standards-based approach to capacitive-sensor EMC problems , ” the authors remind us of the one thing that human engineers have – each other – and their ability and desire to communicate with each other about problems and potential solutions in the form of standards organizations. In their article the Azoteq engineers describe how by following basic principles based on industry standards, it is possible to implement designs with high signal-to-noise ratios that will withstand a barrage of noisy abuse.

Embedded developers also have online forums where they can learn about how to deal with such challenges. There are a number of useful recent tutorials and tip sheets on EMI/ESD transient challenges published recently on Embedded.com. Topics include EMC-aware PCB design , an ESD/EMC design guide, a series on EMC basics , and an article on treating your IC as an ESD test chip. Also included are a range of other useful columns, webinars, classes, and white papers, of which my Editor's Top Picks are:

Improving the transient immunity of your MCU-based design
Testing system design components for EMI problems
Reduce EMI with spread spectrum clock generators
Does EMC stand for exasperating, magic or confusing?
Why EMC testing is insufficient, and what is necessary

As devices get more complex and designs move into consumer, home, and industrial environments as full of electrical transients as a field full of grasshoppers, this topic deserves ongoing coverage and discussion. I am continuing my search for more on such issues, but if you have any ideas for blogs, columns, and articles you would like to read – or write – keep in contact with me.

Design How-Tos

Tutorial: Improving the transient immunity of your microcontroller-based embedded design – Part 1

In the first part of a five part series of tutorials, Ross Carlton takes you step by step through the EMI, ESD, and EFT problems you may face in your embedded designs and provides a range of possible solutions

Testing system design components for electromagnetic interference problems

A brief tutorial on electromagnetic interference issue related to ICs, detailing how new standards from the International Electrotechnical Commision will change EMI/EMC testing methods.

Using programmable spread spectrum clock generators for EMI Reduction

To control EMI in consumer devices clock parameters like PLL charge pump current, VCO gain, and output drive strength, need to be programmable to improve system performance, reduce development time, and allows last minute changes.

How to use finite element methods to simulate system EMF/EMI effects

While not perfect, the finite element method (FEM) is a useful way to calculate the effect of electromagnetic interference and the effectiveness of various protective mechanisms.

A standards-based approach to capacitive-sensor EMC problems

By following basic principles based on industry standards, it is possible to implement capacitive sensing designs with high signal-to-noise ratios that will withstand a barrage of noisy abuse.

Design capacitive touch systems for robustness and manufacturability

In this Product How-To design article, Jean Viljoen of Azoteq, details the EMI and other challenges of designing capacitive touch user interfaces and how to use the company's ProxSense auto tuning technology to negate the need for calibration.

EMC Basics #1: Welcome!; and Clocks: critical circuits for EMC

We start a new series on electromagnetic compatibility, with a look at printed circuit board EMC–and the clock circuit is a good place to start.

Does EMC stand for exasperating, magic, or confusing?—Part 1

While it is merely a nuisance to experience radio interference, it is definitely a serious matter if an ABS, stability control, or airbag suffers a malfunction because a vehicle passes a TV tower too closely. Thus, mastering EMC is a basic requirement for automotive electronics designers. Part one of this article explains basic strategies and provides useful hints.

System level transient voltage protection–Five in-depth answers to ESD questions

The challenge of protecting today's systems from transient threats is more complex than ever before. Here are answers to important questions that can ensure that a system is adequately safeguarded against these damaging electrical transient threats.

Why EMC Testing is Insufficient, and What is Necessary – Part One

Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) in the automobile industry, is validated by testing the performance of electronic sub-assemblies (ESAs), and complete vehicles, using standardised test methods in an EMC laboratory. This approach is insufficient. But approaches exist to improve the situation.

A guide to designing for ESD and EMC

This application note provides an introductory approach to ESD problems within amusement gaming systems that are exposed to ESD events that range from the normal charge build-up from using the equipment or moving parts due to triboelectric charging to malicious attacks by individuals trying to cheat the system.

Every new design is an ESD test chip

The effect of low ESD immunity on a new product introduction can be both obvious and subtle. Manufacturing and test facilities adhere to ANSI standards for ESD protection and handling of chips based on minimum IC ESD immunity requirements.

Embedded Systems Bookshelf


Embedded Books Reading Room
Bernard Cole's favorite links to book excerpts.


Engineer's Bookshelf
Airport fiction blows. A look at books other engineers are reading and why you should read them, too. Recommend and write a review yourself. E-mail Brian Fuller.

Jack Ganssle's Bookshelf
A list of book reviews by Jack Ganssle, contributing technical editor of Embedded Systems Design and Embedded.com.

Max's Cool Beans
Clive “Max” Maxfield, the editor on Programmable Logic DesignLine, often writes about interesting books.


BGA48-packaged MCUs suit wireless sensing apps

Energy Micro has extended the company's EFM32 Gecko range of microcontrollers with the addition of products supplied in a thin, fine-pitch BGA48 packaging.

Embedded networking web server based on Infineon XMC4000 MCUs

Arrow Electronics has developed an embedded web server based on Infineon`s new 32-bit XMC4000 microcontroller family that leverages the ARM Cortex M4 processor.

IEEE802.15.4-certified wireless MCU targets the Smart Grid

STMicroelectronics' STM32W microcontroller is among the first IEEE802.15.4 certified platforms that will support the new ZigBee Smart Energy Profile version 2.0 (SEP 2.0), which defines smart grid scenarios for a “greener” world.

Tektronix delivers test solution for Thunderbolt physical layer electrical validation

Tektronix, Inc. has announced a comprehensive test solution for Thunderbolt technology, a new, high-speed, multi-protocol I/O technology designed to provide headroom for next generation display and I/O requirements.

PLX and One Stop are first to market with PCI Express Gen3-Based industrial-computing platforms

PLX Technology, Inc. and One Stop Systems, Inc. (OSS) have collaborated to deliver what the companies claim are the world's first industrial-grade high-performance computing systems and PCIe-over-cable products based on the PCIe Gen3 standard.

Memoir announces memory generators for dual and 2 port memories

Memoir Systems has announced its first commercial product family: Renaissance™ 2X…

Buck converter aims to increase mobile talk time

Fairchild Semiconductor's buck converter aims to reduce power consumption in GSM/GPRS/EDGE, 3G/3.5G and 4G mobile deigns


EMI and ESD – The Ghost in our Machines

As Halloween approaches some systems appear to be possessed by poltergeists.

Spread-spectrum clocking to reduce EMI: clever or cheat?

This common technique can help you meet a spec or solve a problem, but has worrisome implications as well.

EMI issues on rise; but you can avoid them

Like a ghostly apparition in the dead of night, EMI isn't normal. But though EMI-related issues are on the increase, there are ways to avoid them in your designs.

ESD & EMI gets up close & personal

With capacitive touch sensing emerging as the primary user interface in many consumer and mobile devices as well as autos and industrial control, ESD, EMI and transient noise are now no further away than a finger tip from one of the worst sources of such problems: the human body.

Welcome to the EMC Issues Blog!

An expert's blog about electromagnetic compatibility

Probing pointers

The wrong probe can cause your circuit to fail or even physically destroy components. Here are some of the issues.

EMI on the high seas

An engineer investigates problems with boat electronics


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